HUFFMAN PROVES LUCK A BIG PART OF RACING by Jeremy Troiano
Former Champ Now Two-For-Two In Pro Cup After Wild Night In Georgia
It is often said that luck plays just as much a part in being successful in racing as skill. However, everyone knows you’ve got to be good just to be in position to win a race in any series, but specifically the now ultra-competitive Hooters Pro Cup Series.
On Saturday night at the brand new and beautiful South Georgia Motorsports Park in Valdosta, Georgia, luck proved to be just as good as skill for Shane Huffman.
However, McFarland’s new team had a slow stop, which handed the lead over to Rogers and Huffman. McFarland came out fifth.
The next 101 laps was the Clay Rogers show. Rogers showed that after the stops, he had the best car on the track, holding off Huffman, McFarland (who moved up to third) and Randy Gentry. The four cars were nearly nose to tail, but no one could make a move.
Then, on lap 209, Rogers’ night came to a crashing halt as the defending Pro Cup champion slammed into the turn three wall, ending his night and handing the lead over to Huffman.
Shane Huffman (center) climbs the fence with a couple members of his team and celebrates his second win in a row in front of the Valdosta crowd. (51 Photos)
Huffman also came to find out that being in second place was much better than being in first.
Not once, but twice, Huffman was “handed” the lead while running second when the race’s leader fell victim to various problems.
“Hell no, I can’t believe this. Have you ever seen anything like this?” said a elated Huffman after the race. “I’ve had a race handed to me once, but not twice like that. I guess it was just meant to be.”
Early though, it looked like no one would have anything for Mark McFarland. The youngster, driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr., started from the pole and led the first 103 laps before the entire field came down pit road, looking nearly untouchable except from a few challenges from Clay Rogers.
“The right front tire blew,” said Rogers. “When I went into turn one the lap that it happened, I felt a little bit of a vibration. I came up off of two and it vibrated more. I came up on the straightaway and it started vibrating really bad. I laid up out of the gas, but I was carrying so much speed. I hit the brakes, but then the chassis hit the ground and there is nothing you can do then.”
Huffman then held the lead for several laps, until McFarland finally made his move. With just five laps to go, McFarland made his move. The two held race side-by-side into turns one and two and made a little contact coming out of the two. They continued side-by-side down into three, but a little more contact cut McFarland’s right front tire, sending him sliding up the
Clay Rogers's car comes to a halt after slamming into the outside wall while leading with less than 50 laps to go.
track, forcing Huffman up high with him as well. Huffman got sideways, but somehow saved the car, while McFarland limped around the track.
“I don’t know if there was contact there or not,” said McFarland. “The BFGoodrich guys said they thought it might have been because of brake heat. Oh well, what can you do? You just gotta take it home and fix it and head to Greenville Pickens.
“It’s real hard when you are on the bottom to complete the pass, You can get under them, but it gets real loose on the bottom.”
“We’re just sitting there and we’re fixing to take the green-white-checkered,” said Gentry. “I was going to clean the tires off for the last time and something just popped underneath it. We were just sitting there cleaning the tires off and I don’t know what happened. I didn’t gas it up or anything. I don’t know. Maybe if that last caution wouldn’t have come out, we’d be sitting there where Shane is now. Congrats to him.
“It’s no ones fault tonight. It was just mechanical failure.”
The pain in Gentry’s voice was unmistakable.
Huffman took the green-white-checker and cruised to the win while lots of beating and banging was going on behind him, driving jockeying for second on back.
“First off though, I hate it for Clay,” said Huffman. “He had a good car. He was better than us, no doubt about it. Mark was better than us too. We were holding him up. I got up on the outside though and I was able to hold him off. It was fortunate for us.
Randy Gentry's #19 looked to be a sure winner last night, until transmission problems ended it with just two laps to go.
That contact practically handed the win to Gentry, who made his move as the two leaders slid up the track. By the time Huffman regained control of his car, Gentry had a lead that would be impossible to make up in just four laps.
Then, Matt Carter’s #22 came to a crashing halt, setting up a green-white-checker shootout and giving Huffman one more shot at the win.
In the end, he wouldn’t need to do it under green flag conditions. Instead, looking at his first Pro Cup Series victory, Gentry’s car began to smoke and then came to a stop while under caution… just two laps away from what might be one of the biggest moments of his career.
“It was my mistake he got under us getting down there into one (with just a few to go). He drove hard into three and I think he just got a little loose and then got into me. Fortunately enough, I was able to save it. I don’t know how. I think someone else took over the car there for sure.
“Then Randy Gentry brakes under caution. Man, I hate it for him too. I hate it for all of those guys. I don’t know though. Someone has to win and I’ll take it if they are gong to give it to me.”
So what goes through a racer’s mind when so much good fortunate falls his way during one race.
“I don’t know what goes through your mind,” added Huffman. “I’ve never been in anything like that. That was one of the wildest races I’ve ever been a part of. We by no means had a car good enough to be up there, but I drove my heart out to keep the car up there. My guys had a good stop and put us up there in a position to win the race. They got us up out front and helped us out a lot.
“Luck is just as much a part of racing. You can only do so much to prepare. Then something else takes over. So for whatever reason, we were able to win tonight.”
A carbon copy of Lakeland for Huffman.
Even more impressive for Huffman is that he is now two-for-two after switching rides during the off-season and heading to a brand new team that had never seen the track until the opener at Lakeland this year.
“I was joking with (team owner Phil Knight) before the race. They’ve been successful in the concrete business. I told them success always brings success. I was just kidding with them. I mean, I mean it. I just didn’t think that we would come out and win two races. I couldn’t’ have ended up in any better situation in any better place anywhere. I thank the good Lord to have ended up here.
“I didn’t think we would do two-for-two. We will have to be a little bit better though for the next race. They aren’t always handed to you like this. We were just off tonight. That is as far off as I’ve been I a few races. I think we were a third- or fourth-place car. You just learn more and more about these things every week.”